MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled over the last two weeks. Wednesday, more than 1,100 patients were hospitalized with the virus, a new watermark for the state and the third consecutive record-setting day.
Despite the plea to wear masks and social distance, cases across Alabama continue to spike. There’s a concern the numbers will grow in a matter of weeks due to exposure during the 4th of July holiday.
“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases in hospitalizations and in cases over the past week to two is really concerning,” stated Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, M.D., who serves as an Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases. “We expect given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization which is about a two week lag and a three week lag between cases and deaths, we are on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”
While hospitalizations are down across the River Region, Jefferson County is a hot spot and the significant growth in cases has translated to new hospital records for UAB. Wednesday it was treating 90 patients with the virus.
“The majority of the patients we were taking care of were 65 [years old] plus, but I had patients as young as in their 30s who were incredibly ill and needing critical care,” she explained.
Some doctors acknowledge the patients they are admitting now are sicker. Dionne-Odom says if a COVID-19 patient's symptoms progress rapidly at home and breathing is a problem, they should seek immediate medical care.
“I think that part of the problem is that people are trying not to come to the hospital, some are waiting at home until they have severe symptoms,” cited Dionne-Odom. “A lot of us when we are sick hope it goes away, and it often does. But, if it’s not going away and you’ve been having fever for seven days and you’re still not feeling well, definitely reach out to your primary care provider, start with a phone call and ask them what to do.”
Dionne-Odom noted with this increase, Alabama is far from its baseline and seeing any end to the first wave of the virus. She explained significant action must be implemented for Alabama to dramatically reduce its cases. Among those actions: wearing a mask, implementing social distancing, and if you must join a social gathering it’s safer to do so outdoors.
“There’s a big difference in transmission - about a 20, sometimes even more than 20 fold difference in inside versus outside, so the safest place to go to a restaurant or be in a bar would be outdoors where there’s a lot of separation in the tables,” she stated. “In the midst of these significant increases in Alabama, it is really prudent to say now is not the best time to do those activities at all.”